San Francisco/Baltimore under 47.5:
Preparing their respective teams for Super Bowl XLVII might be easier for the Harbaugh brothers than having to downplay the distraction of becoming the first siblings to coach against one another on the NFL's biggest stage. With each focused on trying to take home the Lombardi Trophy, Jim's San Francisco 49ers look for a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title Sunday in New Orleans when they face John's Baltimore Ravens, who hope to send one of the game's greatest players off to retirement in style. The Brother Bowl. The Har-Bowl. The Super-Baugh. For game broadcast network CBS, advertisers and certainly those in the NFL front office, the matchup has the potential to be a ratings smash.
Perhaps the matchup will be hardest on the Harbaughs' parents, Jack and Jackie. The couple has lived through this experience once on a lesser scale when Baltimore improved to 3-1 in the all-time series with a third straight win over the 49ers, 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. Regardless of who wins, the family can celebrate the accomplishments that brought the brothers to this point.
Jim, who never made a Super Bowl appearance during his 15-year playing career, has guided the 49ers (13-4-1) to New Orleans after losing 20-17 in overtime to New York in the conference championship last season. Aiming to equal Pittsburgh's record six Super Bowl titles, San Francisco has not played on this stage since a 49-26 win over San Diego capped the 1994 season. Jim's brother has the Ravens (13-6) here for the first time since they ended the 2000 season with a 34-7 rout of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, their first championship. Future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was MVP of that game, and he can try to win the award again in his last contest before retiring after a stellar 17-year career with Baltimore.
When Lewis hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in January 2001, it was almost a year since his involvement in the stabbing deaths of two people outside an Atlanta nightclub hours after St. Louis' Super Bowl win over Tennessee at the Georgia Dome. Lewis, who had been charged with two counts of murder before striking a deal to testify against two of his friends, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and received a one-year probation and a $250,000 fine by the NFL. The trial made headlines for a good portion of 2000 before Lewis led the Ravens on their championship run that fall. The murders were never solved.
Lewis and a defense that held the Patriots to one touchdown in the AFC title game will do their best to stop versatile San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. A second-round pick in 2011, Kaepernick has gained sudden stardom for going 7-2 after taking over as the starter after Alex Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10. In those nine games, Kaepernick has completed 62.7 percent of his passes and thrown 13 touchdowns with four interceptions while averaging 7.3 rushing yards and a 101.2 passer rating.
In San Francisco's 45-31 divisional-round win over Green Bay on Jan. 12, he threw for 263 yards with two TDs and set an NFL playoff rushing record for a quarterback with 181 and two scores. The 49ers have averaged 28.6 points in the last nine games with Kaepernick starting - 4.9 more than the previous nine started by Smith. Mobile and athletic, Kaepernick has brought a new dimension to the 49ers offense as his ability to scramble also buys him time to employ his powerful and accurate right arm.
Kaepernick's effect on the offense was evident during his team's 28-24 conference championship victory at Atlanta, when he threw for 233 yards and a TD as the 49ers rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit. Kaepernick is complemented by the 49ers' powerful ground attack, which was fourth in the NFL with 155.7 yards per game. Frank Gore rushed for 1,214 yards and eight TDs on the season, while speedy LaMichael James provides a change of pace to Gore's bruising style. Like his brother's move to stick with Kaepernick when Smith was again healthy, John Harbaugh's decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promote quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell in December also has paid off.
Baltimore is 4-2 with Caldwell running the offense, and Joe Flacco has thrown 10 TDs and no INTs while posting a 111.5 passer rating to lead his team to victories in four of the last five. The first quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, Flacco has won an NFL-record six playoff road contests. He's thrown eight touchdowns while beating Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady this postseason. His three second-half TDs helped the Ravens overcame a 13-7 halftime deficit at New England two weeks ago, and he engineered a miraculous tying drive in the final minute against Denver in the divisional round of that overtime victory.
Flacco threw for 161 yards and tossed an 8-yard pass to tight end Dennis Pitta for the game's only touchdown against San Francisco last season. Though much less mobile than Kaepernick, he also boasts a strong and accurate arm that will likely present a serious test to the 49ers' secondary. Though the 477 yards the 49ers gave up against the Falcons were the second most they've allowed this season, Flacco and the Ravens are in for a major challenge Sunday. Led by arguably the most feared linebacking corps in the league - a group highlighted by NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks - San Francisco's defense ranked second in the NFL in scoring defense at 17.1 points per game and third in yards allowed at 294.4.
This will be the 10th time New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl and first since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area in 2005. It's yet another sign of the resurgence of a city that also has hosted the BCS national title game and the men's Final Four over the last 18 months.
Not all of their plays are designed for Kaepernick to simply read the end and pull it. Most are actually called runs for Frank Gore in the huddle, but made to look like read-option plays to freeze the end from crashing down on Gore. Although Kaepernick gives them an added wrinkle, San Francisco still very much prefers to be a downhill power running football team. The Ravens have already knocked off three elite quarterbacks. On the surface, it is hard to bet against them doing it one more time, or at the very least keeping it close down the stretch.However in the end look for the dynamics and intangibles from Kaepernick involving Gore in the backfield combined with an engineered passing attack to complement a defense that will eventually wear down Flacco and Rice.
San Francisco 27 Baltimore 20
Will Frank Gore score a TD? Yes -130
Total number of field goals made over 3.5 +115
Anquan Boldin over 4.5 receptions -160
Ray Rice over 66.5 rushing yards -115
SF over 21 first downs -115
Randy Moss over 2.5 pass receptions -115
Torrey Smith over 3.5 pass receptions -115